Crumbling heritage 'must be protected'

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The Independent Online
MEASURES must be taken urgently to preserve Britain's crumbling monuments which are being lost at an alarming rate, according to English Heritage.

The organisation believes more than 22,000 archaeological sites have been lost in the past 53 years and hopes a new strategy will secure the future of thousands more.

In the first Monuments at Risk Survey (Mars), published yesterday, English Heritage identifies regions, landscapes and types of monuments most in need of protection.

A study was made of 15,000 archaeological sites across the country in order to build up a picture of the situation nationally.

The monuments ranged from Stone Age settlements to defence structures such as pill boxes dating from the Second World War.

The survey revealed that most monuments had been destroyed due to property development, agricultural activity and natural erosion.

Most monuments have disappeared in the South-east of England, while the West Midlands, Yorkshire, Humberside and the North-east have the highest number of buildings at risk.

The survey defines a monument as an archaeological site which contains evidence of human occupation from the past 500,000 years. There are approximately 300,000 recorded monuments in England.

Speaking at English Heritage's strategy launch in London, chairman Sir Jocelyn Stevens said the document would help develop strategies to "protect the best of the past for the future".

Professor Timothy Darvill, who headed the survey at Bournemouth University, said: "We all hear about the spectacular losses - the barrows being taken out by a new road scheme, or the shopping centre that covers a Roman building - but it is the slow slicing away of monuments bit by bit that tends to go unseen, a house here, a road there, an extension to a car park.

"Forty-four per cent of land we know to have contained archaeological deposits has already gone. We need to work really hard at all levels to afford our most important monuments the long-term protection they deserve."

The strategy document, entitled Pathways to Protecting the Past, sets out a variety of measures for preserving the monuments, including taking early action on those at high risk and further protecting archaeology from building developments.

According to the survey there are approximately 300,000 recorded monuments in England, ranging from Stone Age settlements to defence structures such as pill boxes dating from the Second World War

The survey suggests that 16 per cent of all recorded archaeological sites have been lost since 1945 - a rate of just over one monument a day. Most monument destruction and loss falls into one of three general areas - property development, agricultural activity and natural erosion

More than 4,000 monuments are now at high risk of serious damage or destruction, while 64,200 are at medium risk.

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